Robert Vander Lugt
Robert and his wife live near Grand Rapids, Michigan where he and his family operate a retail hardware business. “Onslaught,” the first story in the collection, Sand, Smoke, Current, received editor’s choice honors from Relief and was featured in issue 7.1. His fiction has also been selected for publication in two short story anthologies. Vander Lugt’s non-fiction has appeared in The Other Journal, Perspectives, Catapult, and The Banner.
Reviews of Sand, Smoke, Current
Sand, Smoke, Current is a collection of short stories. Among the many folks we meet, we encounter the archetypal dilemmas of fathers and sons—of a son who seeks revenge by ruining his father's prideful parade float, of a son who secretly builds a dam to gain his father's recognition. Helpless, we watch as a young couple imprudently drives through a snow-drifting storm and find themselves stuck outside the home of an older man who proves he is not yet ready for the nursing home. We become soul-apprentices to a worker who has witnessed two generations of carpenters, and whose observant eye reveals the tragic changes that have overcome the trade. These are stories populated by Midwesterners, solid folks who process life through the lens of long, dark winters and short bursts of spring, summer and autumn. As the author himself notes, “the undercurrent of religion works on their motivations, tugging and restraining and pushing, in the same way the cold waters of Lake Michigan shape the shoreline.”
"Like letters of encouragement penned by a divine hand, the best of these stories read like parables of a parallel universe, one which is still being shaped by the grace of God and not by popular culture. Wise, unearthly, and other-worldly stories by an author with feet planted squarely on the ground and an eye cocked toward heaven."
--Mark Richard, author of The Ice at the Bottom of the World and Charity, and a bestselling novel, Fishboy
Robert Vander Lugt’s characters share a certain uncertainty in a fashion that not only makes them shadowy, somehow less (or more) than real, but also lends the stories a fable-like feel, both compelling and mysterious. Don’t get me wrong. Time and place is very real in these stories—we’re with him on the lake front, often in the company of boys becoming men. But the outlines are indistinct enough for all of us to find a place beside them on the beach, in the home, with the family. Vander Lugt’s people are never anti-heroes, unusual in this era; but neither are they fanciful. It wasn’t hard to find myself in this compelling collection of tales. Once there amid the shadows, I didn’t want to leave.
--James Calvin Schaap, author of Romey's Place and Touches the Sky
Award-winning author Robert Vander Lugt presents Sand Smoke, Current, an anthology of short stories set in the Midwest, a land known for its long winters punctuated by brief, vibrant bursts of spring, summer, and autumn. Populated with ordinary, salt-of-the-earth people who grapple with both common, practical problems and the far-reaching big questions, Sand, Smoke, Current has a lyrical, muse-like quality to its everyday for the everyman narratives. Highly recommended.
--"Reviewer's Choice," James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief, Midwest Book Review
EXCERPT... “The storm woke, massed, and then slipped over the frozen lake. Clouds, hunched and rolled like a fighter’s shoulders, leaned and sparred across the star-pricked sky. At the beach they stalled, swept over low dunes. Hissing, they infiltrated the steep wooded hills guarding the shore. It spilled east, gathering speed, racing through the stubbled, sleeping cornfields with maniac delight, a thousand hollow stalks quaking like toneless wind chimes. Winter-stiff trees lined the fields, blacker-than-night sentries latticing the sky. It slammed against their skeletal frames and they rose up, groaning and twisting, frozen fibers cracking like old man bones. Their defense held no weight. The storm grabbed fistfuls of dead leaves, tossing them about like a rampaging child. Then, grasping the trees themselves, it twisted hard maple fingers in a torturer’s grip. Up and down the ribbon of woods, branches popped and cracked and shrieked. Limbs gave way, the trees saved by their rending. Then it began to snow.”
- From “Onslaught”